“If the City of Chicago Can’t Find the CTA, We’re in Deep Trouble”

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This a quote from civic watchdog Neighborhood Capital Budget Group‘s Jacqueline Leavy in response to a WLS-TV special report on CTA red light scofflaws aired last night. (Live from the Third Rail caught this gleeful story too). Apparently, last year the Chicago Transit Authority amassed 248 violations for running red lights — all caught on intersection traffic cameras. A more than $20,000 fine, in total. Safety issue? Definitely. (Would you like to be injured on a CTA bus broadsided after blowing a traffic light?)

But that’s not the funny part. And refreshingly this time, it’s a ha-ha funny part.

According to the special report, the City’s Revenue Department, um, er, well, forgot that the CTA moved its headquarters two years ago from the Merchandise Mart to the West Loop. So bills kept arriving at the old address, were returned, and were never paid. For a year. And no one at Revenue ever thought to look into why all their mail to the CTA kept missing the target. Not to mention why the CTA completely stopped paying its traffic fines.

Now, I’m with Jackie. If one arm of City government can’t find another arm that sits walking distance away (and indeed merely moved across the river), especially a big, ponderous, elephantine arm like the CTA, then I think good old prosecutorial Patty Fitz has a lot more housecleaning to do over at City Hall.

Happily, the public fisc won’t have to pony up the twenty grand. The City and CTA, when the mail finally starts flowing again, will go after the scofflaw bus drivers — a plan that already has the decidedly not happy transit union grousing.

You know, when the public’s life is in your hands and images of your buses flying through red lights are posted up on the evening news, I don’t see what there is to fight. Except for that deeply entrenched and from time to time deadly Chicagoland idea that running a red light is no big deal.

Let the transit union make fighting that problem a priority.

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